Sarah: Sacred Transformation
(ל) וַתְּהִ֥י שָׂרַ֖י עֲקָרָ֑ה אֵ֥ין לָ֖הּ וָלָֽד׃
(30) Now Sarai was barren, she had no child.
The Rabbis of the Gemara found themselves bothered by the superflous nature of the latter clause ("she had no child.") Seeking to undersatnd what it meant they comment:
אמר רב נחמן אמר רבה בר אבוה שרה אמנו אילונית היתה שנאמר (בראשית יא, ל) ותהי שרי עקרה אין לה ולד אפי' בית ולד אין לה
Rav Naḥman said that Rabba bar Avuh said: Our mother Sarah was initially a sexually underdeveloped woman [aylonit], as it is stated: “And Sarah was barren; she had no child." She did not have even a place, i.e., a womb, for a child.
אף אנו נאמר איילונית דוכרנית דלא ילדה:
We too will say: Ailonit a term meaning: Like a ram [dukhranit], because like a male sheep [ayyil] she does not bear children.
(ו) וְאֵלּוּ הֵן סִימָנֵי אַיְלוֹנִית. כָּל שֶׁאֵין לָהּ דָּדִין. וּמִתְקַשָּׁה בִּשְׁעַת תַּשְׁמִישׁ. וְאֵין לָהּ שִׁפּוּלֵי מֵעַיִם כְּנָשִׁים. וְקוֹלָהּ עָבֶה וְאֵינָהּ נִכֶּרֶת בֵּין אִישׁ לְאִשָּׁה. ...
And these are the signs of an aylonit: if she doesn't have breasts, and/or has difficulty during intercourse. Her lower abdomen isn't like a woman's. Her voice is rough and she can't be identified as male or female. ...
The Rabbis explain, Sarah is unable to conceive a child because she does not have the anatomy to carry one. Yet, in the passages that follow, Sarah undergoes a sacred transformation marked by the changing of a name, as well as the newfound ability to conceive a child (Issac).
וַיֹּ֤אמֶר אֱלֹהִים֙ אֶל־אַבְרָהָ֔ם שָׂרַ֣י אִשְׁתְּךָ֔ לֹא־תִקְרָ֥א אֶת־שְׁמָ֖הּ שָׂרָ֑י כִּ֥י שָׂרָ֖ה שְׁמָֽהּ׃ וּבֵרַכְתִּ֣י אֹתָ֔הּ וְגַ֨ם נָתַ֧תִּי מִמֶּ֛נָּה לְךָ֖ בֵּ֑ן וּבֵֽרַכְתִּ֙יהָ֙ וְהָֽיְתָ֣ה לְגוֹיִ֔ם מַלְכֵ֥י עַמִּ֖ים מִמֶּ֥נָּה יִהְיֽוּ׃ וַיִּפֹּ֧ל אַבְרָהָ֛ם עַל־פָּנָ֖יו וַיִּצְחָ֑ק וַיֹּ֣אמֶר בְּלִבּ֗וֹ הַלְּבֶ֤ן מֵאָֽה־שָׁנָה֙ יִוָּלֵ֔ד וְאִ֨ם־שָׂרָ֔ה הֲבַת־תִּשְׁעִ֥ים שָׁנָ֖ה תֵּלֵֽד׃ וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֗ים אֲבָל֙ שָׂרָ֣ה אִשְׁתְּךָ֗ יֹלֶ֤דֶת לְךָ֙ בֵּ֔ן וְקָרָ֥אתָ אֶת־שְׁמ֖וֹ יִצְחָ֑ק וַהֲקִמֹתִ֨י אֶת־בְּרִיתִ֥י אִתּ֛וֹ לִבְרִ֥ית עוֹלָ֖ם לְזַרְע֥וֹ אַחֲרָֽיו׃ וְאֶת־בְּרִיתִ֖י אָקִ֣ים אֶת־יִצְחָ֑ק אֲשֶׁר֩ תֵּלֵ֨ד לְךָ֤ שָׂרָה֙ לַמּוֹעֵ֣ד הַזֶּ֔ה בַּשָּׁנָ֖ה הָאַחֶֽרֶת׃
And God said to Abraham, “As for your wife Sarai, you shall not call her Sarai, but her name shall be Sarah. I will bless her; indeed, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she shall give rise to nations; rulers of peoples shall issue from her.” Abraham threw himself on his face and laughed, as he said to himself, “Can a child be born to a man a hundred years old, or can Sarah bear a child at ninety?” God said, “Nevertheless, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall name him Isaac; and I will maintain My covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring to come. And My covenant I will maintain with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this season next year.”
What is Sarah's sacred transformation? Can we see it in our world today?
Sarah and Abraham are characterized by their commitment to "welcoming the stranger" as they bring strangers into their tent and show them hospitality.
Do we show those undergoing sacred transformation in our sacred communities this same commitment to hospitality? How might we improve?